By Shawn Chitnis

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Frasca Food and Wine won the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Service, an acknowledgement that the staff say of the hard work their entire team makes all year no matter the position in the dining room or the kitchen.

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“Everyone’s included and everyone’s got the same goal,” said Bobby Stuckey, co-owner of the restaurant who traveled to the Chicago to receive the award with his business partners.

Bobby Stuckey (credit: CBS)

While accepting the award on stage, he asked the organization to consider renaming the award to “Hospitality” to better encompass all who work at a restaurant. He made the trip back to Boulder in time for dinner service on Tuesday and his team made sure the restaurant was operating on Monday even with the awards ceremony taking place out of state.

“It’s those people who show up at 5 a.m. and open the building,” said Braden Alsnauer, the bar manager for the restaurant. “We have dishwashers and prep cooks, and we have people who never step out on the floor.”

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For the second year in a row, Colorado has a major James Beard Award winner. Last year Alex Seidel, chef at Mercantile in Denver’s Union Station, won the award for Best Chef: Southwest.

Kelly Jeun and Eduardo Valle Lobo (credit: CBS)

The awards handed out each year by the nonprofit James Beard Foundation and are a celebration of the best and brightest in the food world.

“It was amazing, it was tremendous for the team in the kitchen and in the dining room, for us as a whole,” said Kelly Jeun, co-executive chef at Frasca. “There’s always the blood, sweat, and tears behind that, that people don’t see.”

This isn’t the first James Beard Award for Frasca, which previously won for Best Chef: Southwest in 2008 for Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson, who is a co-owner, and Best Wine Program in 2013.

“We all work real passionate and really hard to make sure every guest have a great experience,” said Alberto Hernandez, the restaurant’s pastry chef. “I’m really proud of the team, I’m really proud of every single person.”

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All of the employees who talked to CBS4 the day after the awards were announced emphasized the sacrifice that comes with working in this industry. It’s a cost they have accepted but it has also helped them to build a sense of community at the restaurant.

“With hospitality comes with working the holidays, the weekends, the birthdays, you’re going to miss those weddings,” Jeun said. “You have to accept, you can’t fight it. It’s going to happen.”

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A personal life can be difficult for some, especially if you are not in a relationship with someone who is in the industry — but staff like Alsnauer say they know it was part of what they signed up for in this business.

“Relationships are very difficult for most of us,” he said. “It’s just a lifestyle that we’ve committed ourselves to, and it takes some adaptation but it’s important to us.”

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Another challenge Stuckey says his restaurant excels at: maintaining a consistent experience for all customers. He says the judges know that is necessary when they consider the Outstanding Service Award.

“They might dine at a fine dining restaurant once a year or once a every few years,” he said. “The team has to be ready for that once-a-year or once-every-few-years expectation every single night,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if there’s a snowstorm or a blizzard, we still open the door and give hospitality.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Frasca Food And Wine

But regardless of the sacrifice and the challenge of keeping up with expectations throughout the year, he says what brings them all together is the understanding that their work can welcome anyone from any background. Their focus is not on who joins the team but keeping their restaurant moving forward to bring in a new set of diners each evening.

“We’re an industry of first, second, and even third chances and it’s an industry that is about all walks of life being included,” Stuckey said. “What really matters to us it that there isn’t a destination, it’s the journey of every night’s service.”

Shawn Chitnis


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